Selected Topics from: S. Schechter, Aspects of Rabbinic Theology

The Kingdom of God--National:

A. New Understanding of Biblical "Prophecy":

At the beginning of the Second Temple, the perception took root that prophecy [=God's communication to human agents] had ceased to operate.

In order to know God's teaching, it was necessary to study the inspired teachings of previous generations: The Bible.

If those teachings were to be relevant to later generations, then it was natural to assume that they had anticipated or predicted the events and situations of later times.

This evolved into the notion that prophets were predictors of the future. The word "prophet" comes from a Greek term designating the foretelling of the future. This is a religious approach that is associated with Oracles, and is more typical of Greek religion than of Jewish.

Nevertheless, many Jews in the Second Temple and Rabbinic eras came to regard the teachings of their ancient scriptures as predictions of event of the present or the immediate future.

This mode of thinking was vividly apparent in the extensive literature of Apocalypse that was composed at that time. In Apocalyptic works, the heroes (usually figures from the Bible) were allowed to see God's plans for the end of history: The cataclysmic destruction of the evil empire (usually: Rome); the ascent to power of God's faithful remnamt (usually: the group who composed the Apocalypse; and the rejection of those who had falsified God's true teachings (usually: any Jewish movement other than that of the author). The events were described in graphic symbolism.

B. Biblical Prophecy and the Messianic Idea:

1. General Themes:

The prophets of Israel were concerned with upholding the religious faith and commitment in the present.

Their works did, however, contain statements about the future, in the form of threats and promises:

Removed from their conditional context, they were understood as events that would inevitably occur.

Biblical Source
As Understood by Later Generations
Threats of approaching catastrophe if Israel fails to obey God Catastrophic future: Punishment of sinners.
Consolation: Obedience to God will lead to rewards, perfect world.Utopian World
Revenge on Israel's Enemies.Defeat of evil nations of the world.

2. Specific Themes:

Announcement by Elijah

(Stated in Malachi 3:23 [4:5]):

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

"The War of Gog and Magog" :

Described in Ezekiel 38-9:

1 And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

2 Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him,

3 And say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal:

4 And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords:

9 Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.

15 And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army:

16 And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes.

18 And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord God, that my fury shall come up in my face.

19 For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel;

20 So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.

21 And I will call for a sword against him throughout all my mountains, saith the Lord God: every man's sword shall be against his brother.

22 And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone.

23 Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord.

Chapter 39:

6 And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am the Lord.

9 And they that dwell in the cities of Israel shall go forth, and shall set on fire and burn the weapons, both the shields and the bucklers, the bows and the arrows, and the handstaves, and the spears, and they shall burn them with fire seven years:

10 So that they shall take no wood out of the field, neither cut down any out of the forests; for they shall burn the weapons with fire: and they shall spoil those that spoiled them, and rob those that robbed them, saith the Lord God.

11 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will give unto Gog a place there of graves in Israel, the valley of the passengers on the east of the sea: and it shall stop the noses of the passengers: and there shall they bury Gog and all his multitude: and they shall call it The valley of Hamongog.

12 And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land.

Restoration of the legitimate royal line from the descendants of King David, Legitimacy was expressed by anointing the king's head with oil

An"anointed one" in Hebrew is a Mashiah, Messiah.

e.g., 1 Samuel 16:13

13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.

Resurrection of the Dead

Daniel 12

1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.

2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

Ingathering of the exiles

e.g., Isaiah 11:

11 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.

12 And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

Isaiah 27:13

And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.

The rebuilding of Jerusalem

Isaiah 33:20

Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts! Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of its cords be broken.

Isaiah 40:2

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for all her sins.

Ezekiel 20:40

For on my holy mountain, the mountain height of Israel, says the Lord God, there all the house of Israel, all of them, shall serve me in the land

Zechariah 1:17

And the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.

Zechariah 14:11

And it shall be inhabited, for there shall be no more curse; Jerusalem shall dwell in security.

Return to Judaism of the Talmud and Midrash Index